California vs. Washington: 12 Things to Know BEFORE Moving

Is it Better to Live in California or Washignton?

If you're considering living on the West Coast, you may have already narrowed down your options to California and Washington. Both states have a lot to offer, but they also have their differences. From climate and housing to jobs and taxes, explore the differences between living in California vs. Washington so you can make the best choice for you.

California Lifestyle vs. Washington Lifestyle

When considering the lifestyle differences between California and Washington, you'll find many activities to enjoy in each state. California offers bustling city life with beach-centric entertainment, while Washington provides a nature-focused experience with outdoor adventures. From sunny beaches to lush forests, these states cater to diverse preferences for leisure and recreation.

Things to Do

When exploring things to do in CA, you can indulge in Hollywood entertainment, visit theme parks, and explore famous vineyards. Additionally, you can enjoy surfing, and a diverse culinary scene. Washington is famous for its beautiful landscapes, hiking trails, and outdoor adventures. The state is also home to Seattle, a bustling city full of arts, culture, and great food.

Both states are popular among outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking, skiing, kayaking, and outdoor concerts being local favorites. Additionally, each West Coast location offers art festivals, farmers markets, craft breweries, and local artisan shops.

Outdoor Attractions

Lake Tahoe in California

California and Washington offer similar outdoor recreation throughout the year, including beaches, national parks, and even deserts. As a result, both locations tend to attract outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, skiing, and water activities.

However, different weather patterns may limit the frequency and intensity of outdoor activities in each state. For example, while California generally enjoys a mild and sunny climate, Washington can experience more rain and snow, particularly in winter. For avid sunseekers, California beaches have a slight edge over Washington regarding water sports like surfing and swimming. Additionally, bioluminescent waves in Southern California draw visitors from across the globe.

On the other hand, the Pacific Northwest is known for its lush green forests, stunning mountain ranges, and scenic hiking trails. These natural features make it an ideal destination for outdoor adventurers who enjoy camping, cycling, and backpacking.

Popular outdoor attractions in Washington include Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier, San Juan Islands, and Bellingham's mountain biking scene. California boasts Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, and Lake Tahoe.

Climate

When we compare the climates of California and Washington, we can see significant differences in weather patterns and environmental conditions. These contrasting climates shape individuals' daily experiences and activities in each state.

California generally has hot summers and cool-to-mild winters with little precipitation year-round, while western Washington experiences moderate temperatures and abundant rainfall.

Additionally, Washington's climate diversity, influenced by the Cascade Mountain Range, provides residents with distinct seasonal weather patterns, ranging from dry to wet. Eastern Washington, for example, has a diverse climate with colder winters and hotter summers than California due to marine influence on the western side of the Cascade Mountains.

Economy

California Has a Massive Economy

To compare the economies of California and Washington, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Economic statistics for each state
  • Major industries
  • Top employers in both regions

Understanding these factors can give you insights into each job market, the cost of living, and the overall economic climate.

California vs. Washington Economic Stats

The California economy is an undeniable powerhouse. With an estimated GDP of more than $3.5 trillion, the state's economic output is greater than that of most countries in the world. That said, Washington is home to top tech employers and has the 11th-biggest economy in the US. Washington's unemployment rate is 4.7%, slightly lower than California's 5.3%.

Best Employers & Major Industries in CA

California's employment landscape is diverse, with prominent industries and top employers playing a pivotal role in shaping the state's dynamic economy. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook, as well as entertainment powerhouses like Disney and Warner Bros, are among the top employers in Los Angeles. Other major industries include entertainment, technology, aerospace, agriculture, and tourism.

Moreover, the state's emphasis on research, development, and cutting-edge technology fosters job growth and economic health, particularly in Silicon Valley, a renowned tech innovation and entrepreneurship hub.

Best Employers & Major Industries in WA

Thanks to a diverse range of industries, Washington has a thriving economy. Some of the top employers in the state include Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, and Starbucks.

Seattle is known for its booming tech industry, which attracts skilled professionals worldwide. The healthcare sector is also significant in Washington, with major companies like Providence Health, Kaiser Permanente, and UW Medicine playing key roles.

Washington's agricultural sector generates more than $21 billion in annual revenue. The state is a leading producer of apples, pears, blueberries, cherries, and seafood.

Taxes

Does California or Washington Have Higher Taxes?

If you compare taxes in California and Washington, you'll notice significant differences. For starters, Washington doesn't have a state income tax, which means you can save money compared to California's tax rates.

Understanding these variations is essential when considering a move between these two states, as it'll help you make informed decisions about your finances.

Taxes in California

California's tax burden is one of the highest in the country, at 10.4% when factoring in income, property, and sales taxes. The state operates a progressive income tax system and imposes extensive regulations, which can help inform your financial decisions.

The state's income taxes range from 1% to 12.3% across nine tax brackets. The sales tax is 7.25%, which includes the mandatory local tax rate of 1.25% for most goods and services. Proposition 13 limits property taxes. Under the law, taxes can be at most 1% of the property's assessed value, and assessments can increase by up to 2% per year unless the property is sold or undergoes significant improvements.

Additionally, California imposes high gasoline taxes, amounting to nearly 80 cents per gallon.

Taxes in Washington

If you're considering moving from one state to another, it's essential to understand the tax landscape in Washington vs. California.

Washington's total tax burden is 8.04% when factoring in income, property, and sales taxes. One significant difference is that Washington does not have a state income tax, a significant advantage for those looking to move.

However, the state compensates for this by imposing high combined property and local sales tax rates. Washington has the county's second most regressive tax system, meaning lower-income individuals often pay a disproportionately higher percentage of their income in taxes than higher-income individuals. Therefore, before moving, assessing how these differences can affect your overall financial situation is essential.

Real Estate

Suburban Neighborhood in Northern California

The cost of housing is a critical consideration in the California vs. Washington debate. Each real estate market has significant differences, ranging from architectural styles to listing prices. The average home cost in California is notably higher, making real estate generally more affordable in Washington.

Housing Cost in California

California's housing costs present a significant financial challenge for many residents, particularly in expensive cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Demand for housing is usually high, and buyers are constantly seeking various options, from condos and townhouses to single-family homes with outdoor space.

In Los Angeles, condos typically start around $500,000 and can range up to $2 million depending on the unit's size, location, and features. By contrast, other homes in Los Angeles range widely in price, generally falling between $1.2 million and $3 million in sought-after neighborhoods like Studio City, Hancock Park, and West LA. To say nothing of the mega-mansions dotting Hollywood or Santa Monica. These can fetch anywhere from $10 million to over $50 million for the most luxurious estates.

Rents in desirable locations across LA and other California metro areas can also be quite high. However, people who compare Los Angeles to NYC will find the West Coast more affordable. In LA, studio apartments typically range from $1,000 to $2,000 per month, and two- or three-bedroom units fall between $2,500 and $6,000 per month, depending on the location and amenities offered.

Housing Cost in Washington

Housing expenses in Washington are statistically cheaper than in California on average. That said, housing prices are still higher than in most of the world, especially in Seattle.

Washington boasts eclectic architectural styles, including historic row houses and grand Victorian mansions to sleek modern apartments and cozy bungalows. Metro Seattle, which includes the cities of Tacoma, Bellevue, and Kirkland, is particularly popular among homebuyers. Prices here are steeper than in many other regions in the state. Nevertheless, prospective buyers flock to the area for its excellent schools, access to top-notch healthcare, and the bustling job market. Single-family home prices tend to fall near the $1 million mark, but there are many outliers on both sides.

Rents in Washington also compare well to California's market. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Metro Seattle is around $2,100. At the same time, two- and three-bedroom units can easily range up to $6,000 per month, depending on the location and amenities offered.

Best Places to Live in California

If you're looking for the best places to live in California, cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Bernardino have much to offer. Although getting around by public transportation is possible in these cities, their car-centric cultures are worth noting.

Los Angeles

Neighborhood in Los Angeles, California

Despite the steep living costs, LA offers many job opportunities across various industries, making it an attractive destination for those seeking career growth and a bustling urban lifestyle.

The entertainment industry is perhaps the most well-known sector in LA, with Culver City, Burbank, and Hollywood serving as significant filming locations. However, LA is also home to a thriving tech scene, with companies like Snapchat, Tinder, and SpaceX having offices in the area.

The city also boasts world-class attractions like the Getty Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Universal Studios. Mexican food and sushi are popular cuisines, and LA's beaches are popular destinations for locals and tourists.

Long Beach

The city of Long Beach is one of the best places to live in California due to its lively waterfront scene and diverse community. Additionally, the city offers a variety of cultural attractions, such as the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Long Beach is a significant hub for the shipping industry and boasts the bustling Port of Long Beach, one of the busiest cargo ports in the world. The city enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with nearly 345 days of sunshine annually, making it ideal for outdoor activities.

Although living in Long Beach isn't the cheapest option, it's one of California's most affordable beach towns. Detached, single-family home prices tend to fall in the mid-$600s on average, but they can also be found as high as $1.5 million.

San Bernardino

San Bernardino is situated in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, east of Los Angeles. Compared to other parts of the state, it's one of the most affordable places to live in California.

Homes for sale in San Bernardino range from the high $300s to around $900,000, though large luxury homes in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains can go for $2 million or more.

The city features abundant outdoor recreation, including parks, lakes, and hiking trails. Notable attractions include San Manuel Stadium, Santa Ana River Trail, the San Bernardino History & Railroad Museum, and the scenic Rim of the World Highway. Residents also enjoy a warm climate with hot summers and mild winters.

Best Places to Live in Washington

Consider Seattle, Vancouver, and Olympia as some of Washington's best places to live. These cities offer a mix of vibrant culture, natural beauty, and urban amenities, catering to various lifestyles and preferences.

Seattle

Nestled in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle offers outstanding cultural attractions, modern amenities, myriad green spaces, and a solid economic foundation for its residents. The city's median household income is 54% higher than the national average, allowing for a comfortable living standard. Its public school system enrolls approximately 50,000 students, and many languages other than English are spoken at home. The city is widely credited with kicking off the coffeehouse scene in the 1960s.

Seattle's job market is home to tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Competitive salaries average $90,000 annually. While other Washington cities like Spokane and Langley have vast green environments, Seattle balances urban life with nature. Discovery Park features miles of beach trails, and the city's bustling downtown has many breweries, wineries, and restaurants, offering a lively yet relaxed atmosphere.

Other popular attractions in Seattle include the iconic Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Aquarium.

Vancouver

Not to be confused with Vancouver, BC, this city of approximately 200,000 residents sits on the northern banks of the Columbia River, just north of the Oregon border. Its low cost of living, thriving job market, and exciting waterfront make it one of the best places to live in Washington.

Vancouver's real estate market is affordable compared to many regions in the Pacific Northwest. Many large, new-construction homes are available from the low $300s to the high $700s. However, stately properties near the water may be listed on the market between $1–$3 million.

In addition to affordable housing, Vancouver, Washington, offers numerous opportunities in the tech, healthcare, and manufacturing sectors. Residents also have easy access to outdoor activities, parks, and the stunning Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area on the Washington side. Vancouver's charm is further enhanced by its proximity to Portland, Oregon, which provides a diverse range of cultural and entertainment options.

Olympia

Olympia is one of the best places to live in Washington, offering a lower cost of living compared to busy Seattle. Single-family homes in the Arts & Crafts style are a common sight throughout the city, with prices typically ranging from $400,000 to $800,000.

With a population of approximately 55,000, Olympia exudes small-town charm. Olympians benefit from the area's natural beauty, with access to 45 community parks and a range of recreational activities. Moreover, it boasts excellent schools and a thriving arts and culture scene, further enhancing the city's appeal.

Preparing for Your West Coast Move

Now that you're more familiar with the differences between California and Washington, you can start preparing for your West Coast move! Start by researching neighborhoods, finding a reliable moving company, and making a checklist of everything you need to do before the big day. Regardless of which city you choose, you're in for a treat living in either Washington or California.

Want to live in California? Call The Brad Korb Real Estate Group with LA Homes at (818) 953-5300 to find your dream home.

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